Yogurt is a part of our family's daily diet and that's a good thing -- it's rich in calcium, high in protein and teaming with good-for-your-gut bacteria. But not all yogurt is created equal and many store-bought varieties are also loaded with sugar, artificial dyes, preservatives and stabilizers such as gelatin.
I'm always on the lookout for ways to buy less and make more, so I started making our own yogurt. It's deliciously tasty, wonderfully textured, less expensive and so easy too!
There are lots of low-tech ways to make yogurt using a cooler, insulated canister or even the pilot light of your oven, but I use a yogurt maker -- simply because my dad gave me his.
Regardless of the tools you use, the process is essentially the same: you heat milk to just below boiling, cool it to around 110 degrees Fahrenheit and then carefully add a starter culture of live bacteria. Nature does the rest. (For some fascinating reading on "how yogurt works," pop over this New York Times article by Harold McGee.)
The key is to keep the yogurt warm and draft-free during fermentation, which is where the yogurt maker comes in handy.
The recipe I use calls for:
• 3 1/2 cups of milk (I use whole cow's milk, though I'm going to experiment with goat's milk next)
• 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup instant milk powder (I use the greater amount for a thicker yogurt)
• 1/2 cup plain yogurt with live or active bacteria cultures (simply take this amount from your current batch and use it for the next)
Processing takes anywhere between four and 10 hours , depending on how mild or tart you want your yogurt.
This is after just four hours in the yogurt maker and two hours chilling in the fridge:
At this stage, the yogurt's taste is mild, milky and gentle on the palate. While it's lovely to eat on its own, we enjoy adding dried fruit, homemade jam and honey. But our hands-down favourite has to be locally-produced maple syrup.
Homemade yogurt makes the perfect compliment to our DIY granola, but it's more than that. As Salon author Francis Lam writes, "I don't know exactly how the tradition of eating yogurt for breakfast started, but it's a lovely symbol. Mornings are about renewing, and yogurt is a perfect symbol of rejuvenation -- of making old milk new again, living and breathing and good."